World War I Christmas Miracle On the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front for Christmas 1914

In Christmas truce started by the Germans in WWI, firing stopped the entire Western Front and the Germans put out little Christmas trees.

They sang "Stille nacht, heilige nach" (Silent night, holy night), while the British responded with "O Come all ye Faithful."

There is some speculation that the stories about a truce on Christmas Day between British and German troops in World War I is a fairy tale. However, Snopes.com and a blog called Christmas Spirit seem to have proof that the story is true.

Veterans of WWII remember their fathers and grandfathers talking about it. In addition, one of the participating veterans of the Christmas Truce of 1914 lived until 2005, still telling the story.

Drawing made by Bruce Bairnsfather, Christmas 1914
Drawing made by Bruce Bairnsfather, Christmas 1914

A letter about the truce was discovered a box of other writing materials and it is from a young man, a British private called "Boy" by his family, in the trenches of the Western Front in WWI. He experienced the Christmas Day Truce of 1914 and the letter is worth up to 1000 British pounds or more.

The truth appears to be that at the Western Front, opposing sides even had a soccer match in No Man's Land.

The closest event to approach this one is the showing off of North and South Korean troops on either side of the DMZ with their martial arts training. It's been going on for year but is just not the same. It is not in a good spirit, but highly competitive and threatening.

The Christmas Letter Of 1914

In 1914, a British private wrote five pages in pencil on notebook paper. To his mother he writes, "dear Mater...the Germans began placing ...lights all along the edge of their trenches and coming over to us - wishing us Happy Christmas....since about teatime yesterday, not a shot has been fired on either side up to now."

"They also gave us a few songs so we had quite a social party...Some of our chaps went over to their lines. I think they've all come back bar one from E Co. They no doubt kept him as a souvenir."

"After breakfast we had a game of football at the back of our trenches! We've had a few Germans over to see us this morning. They also sent a party over to bury a sniper we shot in the week. He was about 100 yds from our trench. A few of our fellows went out and helped to bury him...About 10.30 we had a short church parade, held in the trench. How we did sing. O come all ye faithful."

For dinner on Christmas day, the enemies ate together a meal of "fried bacon and dip-bread followed by hot Xmas pudding, then muscatels and almonds, oranges, bananas, chocolate, cocoa and smokes."

"...There must be something in the spirit of Christmas as today we are all on top of our trenches running about. Whereas other days we have to keep out heads well down...I had a parcel from B G's Lace Dept containing a sweater, smokes, under clothes etc. We also had a card from the Queen, which I am sending back to you to look after please..."

British and German troops meeting in "No-Mans's Land" between camps during the unofficial truce of 12/25/1914.
British and German troops meeting in "No-Mans's Land" between camps during the unofficial truce of 12/25/1914. | Source
The childrens' storybook.
The childrens' storybook.

British WWI Veteran Alfred Anderson

Veteran Alfred Anderson

Alfred Anderson, the last surviving World War I soldier to have witnessed the guns falling silent along 500 miles of the Western Front during the spontaneous "Christmas Truce" of the War to End all Wars, died at age 109 in 2005.

He was Scotland's oldest man.

Anderson had been a member of the famous Scottish Black Watch regiment.

Alfred Anderson

The Christmas Truce of 1914 is called a miracle by many who speak of it. At the same time, historical records have shown that infantry soldiers in the horrendous trench warfare of World War I had a "live and let live" philosophy. There was no enjoyment in war, disease, and death.

Christmas Truce

Remembering Christmas 1914

On an old battlefield shown below, we see a remembrance cross. It was was built as a memorial to the Christmas Truce of December 25, 1914 in Ypres, Belgium. The city of Ypres is now called Ieper.

The inscription on the memorial cross reads:

1914

The Khaki Chum's Christmas Truce

1999

85 Years

Lest We Forget.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Public Domain: WWI Ruins: Ruins of St. Martin's Church in Ypres, Belgium, ca. 1918-19 (NARA)
Source
Public Domain: WWI Ruins: Ruins of St. Martin's Church in Ypres, Belgium, ca. 1918-19 (NARA)
Public Domain: WWI Ruins: Ruins of St. Martin's Church in Ypres, Belgium, ca. 1918-19 (NARA) | Source

A Second Truce, On the Eastern Front

On the other boundary of the war, a separate Christmas Truce occurred in 1914.

According to the reference text Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes To War by Max Hastings (2013), in Galicia, military leaders ordered Austrian troops to cease fire unless provoked by the enemy.

The Russian soldiers and leadership responded in the same manner. Some of the soldiers placed three Christmas trees in the local "No Man’s Land. " They wrote a note:

"We wish you, the heroes of Przemyśl, a Merry Christmas and hope that we can come to a peaceful agreement as soon as possible."

The short truce was a relief to both sides of the combat. Enlisted men of both sides exchanged Austrian tobacco and schnapps for Russian black bread and meat.

Russian soldiers held their own customary festivities a few days later (probably the Orthodox Christmas) and the Habsburg troops reciprocated to them as well

Christmas in the Trenches

© 2007 Patty Inglish

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Comments 26 comments

Stacie Naczelnik profile image

Stacie Naczelnik 8 years ago from Seattle

Interesting story. Thank you for sharing this.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

I had read bits and pieces of the stories of this truce and thought it was WWII. when I read All Quiet on the Western Front when I heard about the WWI veteran of Scotland dying and looked into it more at the time.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 8 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Very good article Patty!

The horrors of War then and now are beyond my comprehension.

Great HUB

regards ZSuzsy  


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

I recently re-read All Queit on the Western Front recetnly about WWI and reviewed it. It was a horrible war, I guess they are all horrible.


gabriella05 profile image

gabriella05 8 years ago from Oldham

I cant understand wars, I can only associate wars with greed

Great hub good work

Thank you


Wehzo 8 years ago

Great hub. It is not so hard to believe that the human spirit, sometimes, overwhelm our sensibilities and prejudices until all is stripped away and the heart is laid bare.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Yes, as in the times of many of the Olympics when people are brought together. I am thankful there are Olympic games every two years now.


Peter M. Lopez profile image

Peter M. Lopez 8 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

Thank you for this hub. Your breadth of knowledge and info continues to amaze me.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Thanks Peter. I had to learn speed reading in college to survive when I came up on my second quarter and one Lit. course alone had 14 books to read in 9 weeks. That was in addition to my anthopology course that had 5 or 6.

I read a lot I think.


M. Beck profile image

M. Beck 8 years ago from Parts Unknown

Great Hub Patty.

Fascinating and surreal.

I guess truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes, huh?

As for wars only being for greed or power, that may be true at the outset but it doesn't mean they're not worth fighting. I think WWII is about as good an example of a war worth fighting as can be found in modern history.

-M.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Remember the Star Trek episode with Joan Collins in which we saw a world in which Hitler had not been stopped? Horrifying thought, that.


M. Beck profile image

M. Beck 8 years ago from Parts Unknown

I feel like I'm a participant in a Vulcan mind meld!

(That's a true classic episode, btw - one of my favorites.)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

YOu make me smile! :) I like the mind meld as well.


Prince Maak profile image

Prince Maak 8 years ago from Just Above the EARTH and below the SKY

Thumbs Up!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Thank you Prince Maak! I will attempt to find a story from later wars as well. I have heard bits and pieces about celebrations in WWII ans Korea, and will ponder it for awhile. Thanks again, I'm glad to have done this Hub.


Reg Brittain profile image

Reg Brittain 7 years ago from South Burlington, VT, USA

Would that such a truce always would last.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 7 years ago from Ontario/Canada

A sad thing is that there are still wars going on... a year later still not all the soldiers will be spending Christmas at home with their families....

It was a good hub last year and is still great this year.

regards Zsuzsy


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

When will humans outgrow war, do you think? In addition, the terrorist attacks in Mumbai yesterday left me speechless in wonderment.


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Here we are a year later - still a great hub Patty. Thanks! Let's hope this year we see some signs of moving away from the madness of war. Merry Christmas and Peace to you and yours.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Merry Christmas and miracles to you too, Green Lotus!


Craig 3 years ago

My great grandfather used to be very proud of what happened over Christmas that year when the poor man was in the trenches . It was the only thing about the war he ever told me about as a child . I think it may of gave him some hope for humanity


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

I bet it did just that, Craig - offer hope that he hung onto until the war was over. Thanks for commenting.


TheFisherMan531 profile image

TheFisherMan531 22 months ago from Los Angeles County

If you haven't seen it they made a movie about this called "Joyeux Noel"


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 22 months ago from Ontario, Canada

Enjoyed this hub and my wish is that a truce takes place in the different areas where there is conflict right now.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 22 months ago from North America Author

Thanks for that recommendation!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 22 months ago from North America Author

There must be a better way than war to solve problems and we should have found it by now. Thanks for reading!

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